It’s All About Priorities

When you stop to think about teaching overseas, is your priority to have horizon-expanding adventures in select parts of the world? OR, is your priority to work towards financial security with a willingness to live and teach in not so desirable locations in exchange for a great salary? Maybe you’re after a little of both?

If your bucket list wish is to live and teach in a cultural icon like Paris, Berlin or Madrid, be prepared to settle for a mediocre salary in exchange for the chance to fulfill a long sought-after dream. To make ends meet in these cities, teachers report taking on a second job. If, on the other hand, accumulating money is your goal, Kuwait or the UAE might be your first choice since salaries allow for travel, savings and more, although the trade off may be a less vibrant experience.

It’s all about priorities but keep in mind, the uninitiated can find themselves in an unpredicted situation. A school’s published “savings potential” could actually be based on eating street food, watching TV, and never taking a trip outside the city. Living a life that approaches a first-world lifestyle in some developing nations can be quite pricey. Know before you go!

Connecting with people who have ‘lived the life’ is your key to an overseas experience that satisfies your priorities and fulfills your expectations. We remind ISR Members that the ISR Member Forum is the perfect place to connect on a no-holds-bared basis with someone who lived and worked in the place you’re considering for a career move.

ISR asks: What were YOUR priorities when you accepted your current overseas position? Has reality met your expectations? Did your priorities evolve once you were in mid-Contract? If so, how did that work out?

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

12 thoughts on “It’s All About Priorities

  1. Things have tightened up for sure. More teachers than ever, but also more schools and opportunity. Tier 1’s are incredibly difficult to get in now, where that’s all there used to be, as was previously noted.

    We need the boomers, slugs, alcoholics (a large percentage of INT teachers) and f*t-bodies to hang it up and make way. More, not less, emphasis should be put on physical fitness, personal habits and lifestyle in interviews. You are more than what you do in the classroom. You are everything you do.
    Sorry for my bluntness but I’m ex-military and what I see in the teacher’s lounges these days makes me sick.

    If you don’t work out you can’t work here. If I can’t have confidence in you taking care of the most important thing in your life, your body, then how can I have confidence in anything else that you do? I can’t. There’s the door.

    This isn’t a vacation, though you’ll have plenty of time for that. This is a privilege and I wish more people treated it that way. We have too much old dead wood in this industry and there needs to be a controlled burn, at all levels.


    1. Wait, what? Are you actually saying that you won’t hire fat people?

      I recently lost the 10 kilos I gained after having my baby, and was just telling my husband that everyone treats me better now. He didn’t believe me. How do you know that someone you dismiss as ‘fat’ doesn’t have a medical condition, or didn’t recently give birth, etc?

      I think you are a terrible person, by the way.


  2. I’m second generation, having grown up in international schools as a faculty kid, now teaching overseas myself. My parents worked at tier 1 schools because that’s all there was back then, and they were able to save a lot in addition to having a great lifestyle, buying multiple properties over the years and now looking forward to a comfortable retirement. Things aren’t as rosy for my generation -while I wouldn’t live any other way (as an adult TCK, I don’t fit in culturally in my home country anyway), I haven’t managed to get hired at a high-paying tier 1 school, benefits packages are not what they used to be, costs of living are higher, and if I want to save money, I do have to cut back on lifestyle and travel. Times have changed – that’s just the way it is.


  3. I don’t need the money nor the insurance. I do need the living expenses and transportation to and from the country. For me it is living and immersing myself in another culture. I am highly educated and highly experienced but I am older and having a difficult time finding a position. I think they look at my age and think health issues, difficulty getting around, etc. I even had one interviewer who told me that I would have to walk up stairs – duh! I have retired in the USA, and then lived and worked in Cambodia, Moldova, Russia, and Ecuador. This means I still have the continents of Antarctica (not), Africa (big yes) and Austrailia to go. I love teaching and I love travel. How great to have these two loves together.


  4. 4 continents, plenty of schools, heaven and hell everywhere including the home country all over the past 25 years. My kids have experienced more in their youth than they could have ever imagined!
    I would do it all again, without 2020 perhaps! For me, they key is to make ‘home’ wherever you are at, works for us anyway.


  5. Almost 20 years for us. Our three children all ‘made in China’ are in tow. We are in our 3rd country and 5 th school. There have been highs and lows. I gained my qualification from abroad and my husband from the UK. We really have appreciated the high quality schooling that’s been available. My children haven’t always been pleased with the moves, they miss friends and places. However, we were able to frequently reconnect, easily flying to do so. The lack of contact with grandparents didn’t occur as they were and were able to hop on a plane. It’s been hard these last months. Regardless, we don’t regret the choice to be overseas, as if we had any choice, since we met in Shanghai and he’s British and I’m American. So there you have it.


  6. For me it has been a great adventure, lots of highs a few downs, I’ve learnt a lot about teaching. people, this crazy world we live in and above all about myself and what I really need in my life. Go for it you won’t regret it!!!! I haven’t not for a moment after 20 years.


  7. I went overseas for the adventure and ended up making a bunch of money during 18 years living in reasonable priced economies. Returned to the States and paid cash for a house. Bought two rentals and two years later went overseas again. The houses appreciated. I collected rents. Now I’m retired from teaching, living in Mexico and loving life.


    1. Haha, that makes it sound like the goal of teaching…is retirement. Which sounds (definitely) like something an American public school teacher would say. I “survived” four years in the Kansas City schools, then another 15 years of adventures in Colombia, China (three cities), Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia. Think I have another 4-6 years left, theoretically retiring at around 55 sounds nice…if only there were the opportunities to travel that used to be one of the primary secondary benefits of a teaching career. One thing I have realized from all that time abroad is the importance of learning languages and communicating with the world (instead of expecting everyone to adjust to “us”), so I’m going to make sure my six year old is fluent in Chinese, English and probably Spanish as well.


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